SB 1303 (Dunnavant) would require that each local school division in the Commonwealth make virtual and in-person learning available to all students by choice of the student’s parent or guardian. This is meant to address the concerns of some parents that virtual or hybrid learning is not as effective as in-person instruction and also the concerns of some parents who would prefer virtual instruction for their children out of safety or other concerns. Currently, whether or not a school division continues to hold in-person, virtual, or hybrid learning is under the purview and authority of each local school board. As previously reported, the pandemic has caused issues such as student and staff safety, effectiveness of instruction, and equity to factor into these often difficult decisions. On January 14, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) provided updated guidance on the reopening of school divisions. VDOE also maintains a map of school divisions which tracks the various stages of their reopening.
The bill originally contained an emergency clause that would have allowed the provisions of the bill to take immediate effect if enacted, however that would have also required approval by a four fifth’s vote by the General Assembly. The emergency clause was stripped from the bill and after a lengthy discussion, the Senate passed the bill, 26-13. The legislation now faces consideration in the House.
VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett